So here it is, merry Christmas, everybody’s having fun. Christmas is officially in full swing here at The Sunday Times Wine Club. There’s nothing quite like families getting together under the same roof, friends popping round for an impromptu glassful … maybe even the odd office Christmas celebration. And gift giving in person – how wonderful.
We know that finding that perfect Christmas gift for your loved ones can sometimes be a struggle, but the Gifts Team here at Sunday Times Wine Club HQ have been working hard all year to bring you the most spectacular Christmas gift range. There really is something to suit everyone with gifts perfect for the wine lovers, gin lovers and even beer lovers in your life. Look at what the range has to offer …
If they can’t get out to the pub this Christmas, you can bring the pub to them, thanks to our friends at Oxfordshire’s Loose Cannon Brewery. This clever gift is effectively a pub in a box (hence the name), comprising a five-litre keg, two glasses, and a tasty Salami Chips snack.
Deciding what to eat at Christmas is almost as much fun as picking the wines to match. The Manzanos dynasty has made Rioja on its estate for 200 years and it’s ideal with a wintry casserole, while the Villa Broglia Gavi di Gavi is a classic food-friendly Italian white, and Château Le Bonalguet from Bordeaux will fly with pan-fried duck or roast lamb.
This delicious array of goodies is accompanied by a very enjoyable Aussie Shiraz Cabernet blend, all bramble fruits and black pepper. There is no nicer gift at Christmas than a hamper, and this one from our friends at Cartwright & Butler is a great example!
Only the finest bubbles will do for the 12 Days of Christmas and so we’ve selected Laurent-Perrier La Cuvée, Möet & Chandon Imperial and Piper-Heidsieck Cuvée Brut for this exclusive gift. We’ve paired six high-end (200ml-size) bottles with six delicious packs of truffles, finely crafted by Holdsworth Chocolates in the Peak District, to pair perfectly with the luxurious sparklers. An ideal gift for the fizz fans and chocoholics in your life.
The Christmas gastronomic marathon is upon us and although understandably this year will be very different we still need a glass or two for the big day. I recently caught up with one of Britain’s best loved chefs Michel Roux Jr at his renowned restaurant in Mayfair, Le Gavroche and over a glass of the club’s Didier Chopin Brut Champagne we discussed and shared our top food and wine tips for Christmas. For subscribers of The Sunday Times you can view the discussion here.
If you can’t view it, don’t worry! I have shared the answers to some of the most frequent wine questions I get asked at this time of year.
What wine goes with Christmas pudding?
Can I let you into a little secret? Although I love the theatre of serving Christmas pudding, turning off the lights, drenching it in a generous glass of warm brandy before striking a match and engulfing the pudding in a flickering swirl of blue flame, I’m not entirely sure I like Christmas pudding that much. But Christmas day is the one day of the year where you can justifiably serve a sweet wine. There are a few options. A chilled glass of tawny port can pair well and then you can keep it in your glass for the cheese afterwards. Bordeaux’s luscious sweet wine Sauternes is a classic if, like me, you’ll opt for a glass of pudding wine instead of pudding. But it’s hard to look beyond the tangy, honeyed character of Royal Tokaji which has the sweetness and acidity to revitalise jaded palates. Remember the wine should always be sweeter than the pudding.
What wine goes with roast turkey and all of the trimmings?
A classic Christmas lunch with all of the trimmings can be an absolute melee of competing flavours. As I discussed with Michel Roux jr recently for our Times event ‘Festive Feasting’ I think you have three options. You can either go classic; which is old school red Bordeaux like the club’s 2018 Barons de Rothschild Lafite Réserve Spéciale from Bordeaux in France. Or opt for the bold, ripe flavours of the Southern hemisphere such as an upfront Shiraz like the club’s 2018 Don’t Tell Gary Shiraz by McPherson Wines in Victoria, Australia. A third option, which I tend to favour, is a super smart Beaujolias, something like a Fleurie with all its silky, texture and red fruit. The Fleurie goes well with the white meat of the turkey and doesn’t overwhelm palates which are enduring quite a day of feasting.
Should I decant my wine?
At Christmas, I love the attractive, shimmering aesthetic of a cut glass decanter standing proud on the dining room table. Most wines benefit from a little air and certainly full bodied reds including red Bordeaux, wines from the Rhône, Rioja in Spain or heavy grape varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah will improve in the decanter. Why? The act of pouring a bottle of wine into another container will aerate the wine releasing its myriad of fruit aromas and will gently soften the texture. For a young wine, give it a vigorous decant lifting the bottle high as you pour, for an old wine, go easy, gently pouring it into the neck of the decanter.
What temperature should I serve my wine?
It may surprise some of you to learn that I recommend chilling both red and white wine, not to the same temperature obviously! It’s worth remembering that a normal domestic fridge will chill down a bottle of wine to around 5C in a few hours. For me that is too cold for wine at Christmas. Most light white wines such as Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling should be served at between 5 and 9C, same for Champagne and sparkling wine. If they instinctively feel too cold and need warming up, don’t worry. Just cup your hand around the bowl of the glass and it will soon raise the temperature a few degrees. With red wine is where it gets interesting. These days most of us living in centrally heated houses and apartments and it is easy to forget that the traditional advice of serving your wine at room temperature probably meant somewhere around 12C. I would say young fruity reds such as Beaujolais, Pinot Noir and Valpolicella are best served around 11C to 15C while heavier red wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and red Bordeaux, Burgundy and Shiraz around 14C to 18C. Put the back of your hand on the bottle, it should feel cool to touch. That’s the right temperature. Christmas is busy in the fridge so I tend to pop mine outside for around 20 minutes before serving.
What wine is the best for mulled wine?
Don’t waste your best bottles on mulled wine, but don’t think you can get away with pouring any old cheap plonk in the pan either. If you are using a lot of nutmeg, which I like to do, I feel the wines which work the best are fruity, smooth red wines. I’m thinking something like a Zinfandel from California or a juicy Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvèdre blend from the Southern Rhône in France.
Is English wine better than Champagne?
What we can say with confidence is that we are now entering the third phase of the great English wine boom of the 21st century. The first stage was a recognition that winemakers in England could actually make wine on these shores that is drinkable and not just a novelty. The second phase was a realisation that a handful of England’s sparkling wines, including Harrow & Hope, are competing at the very highest level. The third phase is that we are now producing still table wines made from grape varieties such as Bacchus and Pinot Noir that are beginning to get noticed internationally. It’s a hugely exciting time for the industry.
Does all wine improve with age?
Ina word no. Around 90% of wine sold in Britain is made to be opened and enjoyed as soon as the screwcap has been twisted or the cork pulled. Only a very small percentage, let us for sake of clarity, define that as anything more than £15 a bottle what we might refer to as ‘fine wine,’ benefits from ageing in the bottle. It’s unwise to generalise but fine whites such as Burgundy and Riesling can age in the bottle up to 5 to 10 years or more. Good red Bordeaux, Rioja, Burgundy and Barolo, depending on the growing season, can age for between 5 and 30 years, sometimes more.
Do I have to serve my best bottle at Christmas?
I’m slightly torn on this issue. Christmas can be a stressful time, there is a lot to do, relatives to entertain, excited children scampering around and that is before you have sat down for the feast itself. Is it the perfect time to bring out that that expensive bottle you bought recently or the wine you have carefully nurtured in the cellar for many years? Some might say no, probably not. Far better to leave it there and serve it at an appropriate occasion when it can command your full attention. Relax and enjoy the day. Only, when is that occasion? I do agree with Michel Roux Jr who says if you can’t serve your special bottle on Christmas day then when can you? It is an occasion after all and I do feel this is particularly apposite this year when we all need cheering up! So perhaps, yes serve your best bottle.
What is the best wine to go with Roast Chicken?
Depends on the time of year. Roast chicken is such a comforting, easy going, crowd pleasing Sunday lunch that when it comes to the wine it’s a very amiable companion. This Sunday I paired it with an aged Barolo from Piedmont, the earthy flavour of the wine worked as a contrast to the soft texture of the meat. In the Summer I would opt for an oaky Chardonnay, it is a really hot day something like a taut Chenin Blanc from South Africa. We like to serve with mash and salad in the warmer months. For a Summer red Chianti works well. In the winter when we naturally crave a red wine I would look to a supple Merlot, a ripe red Bordeaux. For something lighter Pinot Noir, a red lighter style Burgundy such as Chambolle-Musigny but even Côtes-du-Rhône works well. It really is a bit of a free for all.
What is the best wine to go with cheese?
At Christmas, I’m a huge fan of serving tawny port with cheese. Slightly chill the tawny to around 10C and it will pair well with a variety of cheeses. There are of course some classic combinations. A sweet wine such as Sauternes or Tokaji is heavenly with blue cheese and can go well with all sorts of softer cheese and of course you have the double benefit of being able to serve them with Christmas pudding. Speaking in broad brush generalisations red wine tends to go better with harder cheese but white wine is often much more suitable as an accompaniment to cheese. A glass of chilled Sancerre with a handful of creamy goat’s cheese or event a zesty, tangy Sauvignon Blanc. My one tip is to narrow your options, don’t go for too many cheeses. One or two and road test them before the big day, you’ll have great fun too!
Join Tony Laithwaite in conversation with Carlos Flores from Andersen Port House. Founded in 1845, Andresen is one of the last remaining family owned port houses. Andresen passionately believes that port is one of the world’s finest wines – and has won a host of awards from international competitions in an attempt to prove it.
The pair get together virtually to discuss the different styles of port and why it’s perfect all year round, not just at Christmas.
All Port featured in the video are available to purchase on our website via the following:
It’s that time of year where Christmas is approaching and we start to think about those thoughtful gifts for our loved ones. Wine is often regarded as a ‘safe’ present and there is always something to suit all tastes and preference whether that be for your parents, friends or even colleagues. It’s easy to throw a bottle or two into your trolley when doing your festive food shop. As this year’s Christmas may be a little different, why not put some extra thought into your loved ones’ gifts and give them something that will make them smile this Christmas. A gift from The Sunday Times Wine Club isn’t just a gift, it’s an experience. Let us show you our top picks for all types of wine lovers with something to suit every taste and budget.
Looking for that extra special gift for that very special someone? These four gifts will be perfect choices with something to please all tastebuds.
Delicious truffles and gold medal-winning Champagne… a match made in heaven if you ask us. This luxury gift will make the recipient feel well and truly spoiled. Not only does this set include tasty truffles and Paul Goerg’s gold medal-winning Champagne, you’ll also get two Dartington Crystal flutes to sip your Champagne from.
One of the most famous of all fine pink Champagnes. Champagne Laurent-Perrier’s rosé spends four years ageing in its cellar, developing great complexity. You’ll receive this presented in its special bottle and gift box, together with two Dartington Crystal flutes, and a Laurent-Perrier branded ice bucket, so you can serve these bubbles in style.
If you struggle to decide on red, white or fizz for your recipient, this gift is the perfect option with a taste of all three. These six wines will enhance any occasion with their quality and complexity of flavour. This selection compromises Didier Chopin Champagne, Saracosa Governo Rosso, Domaine Dampt’s Petit Chablis, the reserve edition of our exclusive Mussel Pot Sauvignon Blanc and Château la Vallée Montagne Saint-Emilion and last but not least, Limited Release McLaren Vale Shiraz… all presented in a luxury gift box.
Looking for that wow factor gift? This elegant hamper with luxurious blanket comes with two beautiful Dartington Crystal flutes and a bottle of Pol Roger Champagne, even more delicious well chilled. A generous gift which is perfect for couples. The upright hamper makes it a smart and convenient way to carry bottles to any occasion in the New Year to come.
Perhaps you’re looking for something slightly different to gift this Christmas. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Here are our top picks:
This one’s for the Prosecco lovers out there. Your recipient will receive stylish sparkling wine flutes, making family-run Terra Batista’s creamy and complex Prosecco even more elegant.
Barbadillo Sherry & Olives Pack
Sherry and olives are the Spanish equivalent of cheese and crackers – the perfect pairing! Our Barbadillo Sherry & Olives Pack will see your recipient getting the taste of sunny Spain with the aromas and flavours of crisp and dry Manzanilla sherry paired with succulent, juicy olives.
This fine festive bouquet of elegant amaryllis, red roses and carnations are offset perfectly with pinecones and white thistles. Plus there’s more than a touch of splendour in the bottle of superb Louis Roederer champagne to add some sparkle.
You can now save the rest for later with this ETO Wine Preserver. This is the best of the best when it comes to keeping your open bottle in a drinkable condition. Not only is it highly praised for its ability to preserve wine, it also serves as an elegant decanter. A new, beautiful way to drink responsibly!
Gifts Under £40
Discover a selection of perfect gifts for wine lovers all under £40. We’ve got some great ideas for stocking fillers too.
Give the gift of wine discovery. In this duo you’ll find the fresh and fruity Il Basso Italian Merlot, a sure-fire crowd pleaser, and Viňa Tarapacá, our bestselling Chilean Sauvignon Blanc. A pleasing pair for someone who is just getting into wine.
Delight any wine lover with this gift set, presented in a luxury gift box. From winemaker Javier Murúa comes his Barón de Barbón, our bestselling Rioja. Our accompanying glasses will enhance the oak-aged aromas and flavours, opening up its toasty and spicy notes.
Harrow and Hope Brut Rosé
Give the gift of an elegant English sparkling wine this year. But this isn’t just any English sparkling wine, it was last year’s winner of Best English Vintage Sparkling Rosé. Harrow and Hope Brut Rosé use the classic Champagne grapes and traditional Champagne method. It’s got gorgeous berry and toasty richness. The lucky recipient will receive this fizz in a smart, wooden box.
We’ve picked wines from some of our most talented producers for this trio. Javier Murúa’s toasty and silky Barón de Barbón is our bestselling Rioja, the Zonin family makes our fresh and creamy Luminoso Leggero Prosecco, and our tropical and crisp Company Bay Sauvignon Blanc is crafted by one of Marlborough’s pioneering cellars.
Or why not try?…
Home Tasting Experience
Say hello to the do-it-yourself Home Tasting Experience. Not only will you SAVE 20% on a six-bottle showcase of delicious quality wine, which includes six glasses, and a Cabalié branded corkscrew, you’ll gain access to an in-depth tasting tutorial for each wine from our Wine Educator, Grant Hedley. Together, you will learn:
How to taste like a professional
All about the various grape varieties, regions and producers
Tasting notes for each wine
Perfect food and wine pairings
It’s the perfect gift for those wanting to learn more about wine, it’s also a great gift for yourself too. Find out more about what’s included in a Laithwaite’s Home Tasting Experience by clicking here.
We hope that you’ve found some inspiration for gifts to give this Christmas. You can view our full range over on our webpage.